January 2020

The rise of Veganuary

January is well recognised as the start of a new month and for some, the start of a new lifestyle. Year on year the vegan diet is becoming ever so more popular, with hundreds of thousands of people signing up to ditch meat for the month. But is scrapping this nutritious source of animal protein really the way forward?

A vegan diet is the exclusion of animal food sources including by-products, such as dairy. Those following a vegan lifestyle generally do not wear leather and avoid products made from animals such as silk and wool. In light of this rising dietary trend, over the past couple years, January has been transformed into ‘Veganuary’. Veganuary is a UK charity set up in 2013 to encourage individuals to try a vegan diet for the 31 days of January.

Kantar research highlights that in 2019, 1.3 million brits actually gave up meat in January, this was 10 times more than the numbers who officially signed up to Veganuary, and this number is only set to rise this year. Globally, 250,000 individuals signed up to the charity, of which 15% were already vegan. However, it was reported that the 85% who were giving up animal products for the first time did not manage to stay vegan after their committed month. Instead, it was reported that these individuals had modified their diets to consume much less meat.

For many, it is a wonder why companies who produce meat-free products (such as Quorn) make them to resemble meat, as why would a vegan want to eat something that looks like the food they are trying to avoid. Well, the reason is that these products are not aimed at vegans but at the flexitarian market who still consume meat but are actively trying to reduce their intake.

This year, the number of new vegan and vegetarian product launches has been huge. With a market increase of 18% (the highest growth rate of any category), the food industry has timed meat-free product launches to fit in perfectly with Veganuary.

Just some of the below are being launched for 2019:

  • Sainsburys are adding 31 new products to their Plant Pioneers range, including smoky quarter pounders, mushroom hotdogs with mash and mushroom meatball spaghetti, as well as jackfruit shwarma and tinned jackfruit and banana blossom. 
  • Coop has launched its biggest rollout of vegan products with new brand ‘Gro’. It consists of 35-meat free products and will be sold in 2000 stores along with up to 4000 independent retailers. This launch comes on the back of a 12% increase in vegetarian products and a 14% rise in sales of non-dairy milk products over the past year. Coop also stated that the UK vegan market topped £1 billion for the first-time last year and has doubled over the past 20. 
  • Aldi is also expanding its vegan range, with new products including their own vegan sausage roll and a plant-based pizza. 
  • Greggs is about to launch a vegan steak bake, as well as a vegan doughnut. 
  • Subway launched a vegan version of their meatball marinara sub. 
  • KFC has introduced a vegan ‘chicken’ burger to its menu as a permanent addition after successful trials racking up sales 500% higher than its traditional chicken offering

Why are people starting to become vegan?

Environment – When cows eat food their digestive system releases methane, the emissions of this gas have been shown to increase the rate of global warming. This is usually prevalent in industrialised farming such as the methods used in America, however this is not the case for UK agriculture – where in some cases farming can be shown to almost reach carbon neutrality. Also, there is an argument that too much land is being used for livestock and feed farming, but instead, this land could be used to grow crops for human consumption. However, the calorie density and protein quality of grain would be much less than that of meat and so would require much more land per person. But would this be possible with the growing global populations demand for land for housing and infrastructure?

Health – There is currently inconclusive research out there that red meat is likely to increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer. However, many studies fail to highlight the differences between red and processed meats and the contents that are added during processing. Often enough, it is the processed form of food which can be deemed unhealthy for us. So, if vegan ‘mock-meat’ is heavily processed and has added fats and salt, what makes this product any healthier than a hamburger?

– Ethical – Another reason people decide to become vegan is because they consider it the moral high ground. However, meat is an essential part of our diet, rich in nutrients and a natural food that other animals eat – It is eaten for a reason! By not eating red meat, you are missing out on many nutrients that you cannot get, or as easily absorb such as B12, iron, and complete proteins. The lack of these essential dietary components along with limited nutritional knowledge can lead to nutrient deficiencies which can then influence illnesses such as anaemia, a poor immune response and lack of cognitive function. Although many vegans may suggest that they have been following their diet for a year and nothing has changed (perhaps they even feel better), sometimes deficiencies, such as B12 take between 3 and 4 years to manifest.